Nov 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Rudy Gay (22) during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Raptors defeated the Sixers 108-98. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings (6-13) versus Utah Jazz (4-19) Preview

Its opening night for the Rudy Gay show in Sacramento—does anything else need to be said? Three new Kings, including the high-profile Gay, take center stage tonight, but just two days removed from the Kings best game of the season (a 112-97 victory over Dallas). Any chance the newcoming star messes with the flow?

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Sacramento Kings:

Utah Jazz:

C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky
22.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 49.2% FG
C: Enes Kanter, 6’11, Kentucky
12.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 49% FG
PF: Derrick Williams, 6’8, Arizona
12.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 52.8% FG
PF: Derrick Favors, 6’9, Georgia Tech
13.4 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 51.2% FG
SF: Rudy Gay, 6’8, UConn
19.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 38.8% FG
SF: Jeremey Evans, 6’9, Western Kentucky
8.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 60.7% FG
SG: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas
9.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 36.7% FG
SG: Gordon Hayward, 6’8, Butler
16.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.7 APG, 39.3% FG
PG: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington
18.2 PPG, 5.3 APG, 45.7% FG
PG: Trey Burke, 6’1, Michigan
12.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, 37.6% FG

Key Bench Players:

G: Marcus Thornton, 6’4, LSU
8.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 36.4% FG
G: Alec Burks, 6’6, Colorado
12.3 PPG, 2.6 APG, 41.7% FG
F: Travis Outlaw, 6’8, Starkville HS
5.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 45.7% FG
F: Marvin Williams, 6’8, North Carolina
10.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 46.8% FG
F: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider
6.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 46.2% FG
F: Richard Jefferson, 6’7, Arizona
9.7 PPG, 3 RPG, 40% FG

 

Last Three Contests:

December 11, 2013: Kings @ Jazz – Kings 112, Jazz 102 (OT)
February 9, 2013: Jazz @ Kings – Kings 120, Jazz 109
February 4, 2013: Kings @ Jazz – Jazz 98, Kings 91

Key Matchup: Rudy Gay vs. The World

No offense to Derrick Williams, but Rudy Gay’s debut is the biggest debut of the season. Who knows exactly how the Kings will use Gay (I trust Coach Malone’s judgment far more than my own) but it’s likely that they’ll put the forward in as a starter immediately. The biggest question will be how Rudy fits himself into the roster. There is a legit cause for concern since the Kings are now placing three very high usage players (Cousins, Thomas and Gay) onto the roster. The debut won’t, of course, show the final product Malone has in mind, but it’ll be a start.

Three Things to Watch:

1. And the other Guys?: Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray are also joining the team, and both could see solid minutes going forward. Acy, a REAL small forward who REALLY plays defense, would be enough to excite SF needy Kings fans if it wasn’t for Gay. Gray will also provide the Kings with a solid backup center behind Cousins. How much either will see the floor going forward is unknown, but they both have the talents to be solid bench players. 

Dec 7, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) attempts to dribble around Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke (3) during the first half at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

2. Showtime Isaiah: Thomas had himself a fantastic game (24 points, 12 assists, 7-16 shooting, 4-6 from three) in his first start of the season. He obviously knew that, as the starter, he’d be expected to take Greivis Vasquez’s role as floor general, and he looked excellent all night long passing the ball.

The critiques that Thomas isn’t a real “pass first point guard” have always been overblown, but this season will be a great chance for him to prove it. He’s got more options now than ever before to pass too—a juggernaut Cousins (playing the best basketball of his career by far), a young sharpshooter in McLemore, an all-around scorer in Gay and the human Thriller known as Derrick Williams (credit to the Sactown Royalty crew for that nickname, which I fully support).

Thomas will be matched up tonight against rookie Trey Burke, a solid player but a below-average defender who didn’t have a prayer of guarding Thomas on Saturday. Another excellent night seems in order.

3. Stick to Hayward: Gordan Hayward is the Jazz’s best player by far. He’s averaging team highs in points, assists and steals, but isn’t having the best shooting year (39.3% from the field). Whoever is guarding him (likely rotating between McLemore, Gay, Williams and Acy) needs to contain Gordan, who can beat you in many different ways. His mid-range shot is his bread and butter.

Prediction: Cousins repeats his Salt Lake City performance, Thomas demolishes the rookie Burke, Rudy plays solid if unspectacular, and the Kings best the worst team in the league – Kings 106, Jazz 89

 

 

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